Sarah, Comely Woman of Faith
GOD’S Word, the Bible, is not an old-fashioned book. At no time will the human race reach a point where it will not or can not benefit from perusing the marvelous things recorded therein. However, particularly for us at the present time was it written, that through our endurance and its comfort we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11, NW) And the examples furnished by faithful men and women not only give us encouragement but often are found to be of prophetic significance. A case in point is Sarah, the wife of Abraham, outstanding for her comeliness, faith and submissiveness.
Sarah, according to Genesis 20:12, was a half sister of Abraham as well as his wife, having the same father but a different mother. As a young woman she must have been exceedingly beautiful, for even at the age of sixty-six the princes of Pharaoh so praised her to him that he, upon hearing that she was Abraham’s sister, took her into his household. Still more remarkable, twenty-five years later, when she was about ninety years of age, Abimelech, king of Gerar, took her.
But Sarah had far more to recommend her than just her beauty. In fact, beauty alone is not well spoken of in God’s Word. In itself, “Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised.” (Prov. 31:30, AS) Sarah not only had grace and beauty but she feared Jehovah.
We always think of Abraham as one who had such great faith that he was able to have a son in his old age, but do we ever take note of the fact that had it not been for Sarah’s having a like faith the faith of Abraham would not of itself have enabled him to have a son by Sarah? That Sarah’s faith played a vital role in this is apparent from Paul’s words at Hebrews 11:11 (NW): “By faith also Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, even when she was past the age limit, since she esteemed him faithful who had promised.” Faith enabled Sarah to have a son when she was ninety years old.
True, we read that when Sarah first heard that she was to have a son in her old age she laughed, saying: “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Gen. 18:12) But this was no different from the way Abraham himself felt about it when Jehovah first assured him that he would have a son in spite of his old age.—Gen. 17:17.
Yes, Sarah was a woman of faith, a worthy wife of that man of faith, Abraham. That is why Jehovah changed not only Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude,” but also Sarai’s name to Sarah, meaning “princess”; it being the feminine form of the Hebrew word sar, prince.—Gen. 17:5, 15.
A SUBMISSIVE WIFE
Not only is Sarah cited to Christians as an example of faith, but, particularly to Christian wives, Sarah is held up as an example of wifely submissiveness. The apostle Peter, a married man, in his first letter, after counseling Christians to be submissive to one another, continues: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, . . . And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord’.”—1 Pet. 3:1, 3-6, NW.
In checking the Hebrew Scriptures we do not find any specific instance where Sarah addressed her husband as “lord.” But we do read that Sarah “laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Gen. 18:12) Most likely she did address him as “lord,” not to flatter his ego, but because she really thought of him as being such to her.
That she really felt this way in her heart is apparent from her obedient course of action. When God commanded Abraham to leave his native land Sarah did not put any obstacles in his way but showed the same obedience to the divine command as did Abraham. And we can appreciate that this was no insignificant matter for her, as wandering from place to place, pulling up stakes and getting established time and time again must have been far more of a burden to a woman than to a man.
Her submissiveness was shown in a particularly remarkable way in the two incidents already referred to, when two pagan kings desired her for her beauty. To avoid jeopardy to his life, Abraham in each case represented himself as Sarah’s brother. This certainly was no small test for Sarah, but she willingly submitted. She could have insisted that Abraham plainly state the facts and fight for her, but doubtless she did not. While the record is silent on this point, we may be certain that had Sarah made an issue of it, that fact would have been noted. Instead of censuring her husband, she put her faith in Jehovah and Jehovah rewarded her faith by seeing to it that neither of the kings touched her.—Gen. 12:17-19; 20:3-18.
When the angelic messengers visited Abraham, Sarah showed her willingness to co-operate, even as we read, “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.” She did not complain about being ordered and hurried but went right to work while Abraham got a tender young calf and gave it to one of his servants to butcher and dress. As a result, in the minimum time Abraham was able to spread a feast for his guests.—Gen. 18:1-8.
That Sarah’s submissiveness was because she recognized the proper theocratic rule, and not because she was an introverted abject female with an inferiority complex, is apparent from other recorded incidents. When Abraham and Sarah kept getting older and older without having an offspring, it was Sarah who suggested to Abraham that he take her maid Hagar as a substitute wife, so that he could have a son. However, when this maid became pregnant and despised her old mistress, Sarah dealt severely with her. That we may not attribute any spite or jealousy to Sarah is apparent from the fact that the angel of Jehovah did not rebuke Sarah for it, but, on the contrary, ordered Hagar, who had run away because of this treatment, to return to her mistress.—Gen. 16:1-9.
Ishmael was born, and years later Sarah conceived and bore a son, Isaac, meaning “laughter.” At the time of his weaning, Abraham prepared a great feast at which Sarah noticed Ishmael, her maid’s son, mocking her son Isaac. Becoming concerned for the welfare of her son she asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. It took no little courage on the part of Sarah to make this suggestion to her “lord,” especially as she could not help knowing how reluctant Abraham would be to carry out such a suggestion.
But here again Sarah received support from Jehovah, for in spite of the fact that Abraham was very loath to follow Sarah’s suggestion in this, he was told to listen to Sarah and send Hagar and Ishmael out of his household. While some worldly-wise critics condemn Sarah in this, even as they do in her previous course toward her maid, yet in view of Jehovah’s confirmation of Sarah’s suggestion and the prophetic application made of it in the Christian Greek Scriptures, we cannot properly censure her. It was her son Isaac, not Hagar’s Ishmael, that was the seed of promise; his interests were paramount and had to be safeguarded.—Gen. 21:8-12.
Sarah died at the age of 127 years, having seen her son grow to almost forty years. She being mentioned by the apostle Paul at Hebrews chapter 11, we may confidently expect her to be favored with an early resurrection.—Heb. 11:11, 39, 40; Rev. 11:15-18, NW.
Sarah was a comely woman of faith who appreciated the proper relationship of a wife to her husband, and who bore a son to her husband in her old age. In all this she was a very fitting picture of Jehovah God’s “woman,” his universal organization, and whom he considers very beautiful. That “woman” also was barren for a long time before giving birth to the promised Seed, Christ Jesus, and to the Kingdom. And all those who will ever comprise God’s organization, as well as those who now come under it, and receive its blessings, must, like Sarah, exercise real faith in Jehovah’s promises and be submissive to the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God.—Isa. 54:1; 66:7, 8; Gal. 4:22-31.